Imbedded vs. embedded?

Imbedded and embedded are spelling variations of the same adjective or past participle, although embedded is far more common than imbedded.

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What is the difference between imbedded and embedded?

Embedded” and “imbedded” are commonly confused words, but not for the reason you’d expect. No, they are not homophones or even American vs. British spelling variants. They are simply different spellings of the same word, and either version is perfectly fine to use. 

Which is more common: imbedded or embedded?

According to Google Books’ Ngram Viewer, which compares word frequencies throughout English literature, American and British English have preferred the spelling of embed and embedded since the early 19th century. (“Imbedded” is uncommon for both types of English, but it occurs slightly more often in American English.) 

What does embedded mean?

Embedded (also spelled “imbedded”) is an adjective and the past tense form of the verb embed. As a verb, embed means ‘to set firmly into a surrounding mass or environment’ or ‘to become an integral part of something (as a whole).” (For instance: Notice the three hyperlinks? We embedded those links into the article.)

Example sentences:

  • “I found my wallet fully embedded in a muddy puddle.”
  • “The wooden sliver is firmly embedded in the bottom of her foot.” 
  • “There is chewing gum embedded in her hair.”
  • “He embedded the 18-carat gold pocket watch with a set of Swarovski stones.” 
  • “Frodo Baggins embedded a sword into the back of his opponent.”

There are more specific uses of the verb, as well. As outlined by the Oxford Dictionary of American English, embed can describe the implantation of an idea or feeling so that it “becomes an ingrained or essential characteristic of it” (“Embed” 565). 

Example sentences:

  • “The advertisement embedded an annoying jingle in everyone’s heads.”
  • “A parent’s love is embedded into their children’s hearts.”
  • “Economic inequalities are said to be systemically embedded in the U.S. health care system.”
  • “My traffic citation is embedded on my driving record.”
  • “The inappropriate comment is forever embedded in my mind.”

We also see the verb within computing, where it describes the incorporation of coding, text, or software into a system or device (565). 

Example sentences: 

  • “We embedded user tracking systems into the website’s interface.” 
  • “The Bluetooth system is embedded inside the helmet.” 
  • “Watch out for malware embedded in the body of emails.”
  • “There is a quiz and bibliography embedded in each blog post.” 
  • “Facebook allows users to post embedded links from YouTube.”

Alternatively, “embed” can also describe the act of attaching someone to a group to advise, train, or observe. Often, the attached person is a journalist — aka “the embed” (noun) — reporting on an active military unit. 

Example sentences:

  • “The Pentagon warned journalists embedded overseas.” 
  • “Journalists embedded with military units are not guaranteed protection.”

When embedded modifies or describes a person or thing, it functions as an adjective to illustrate how something is ‘closely surrounded’ or ‘inserted’ into a surrounding environment. 

Example sentences:

  • “She owns a necklace with 20 embedded diamonds.”
  • “Can you replace the embedded microchip?” 
  • “The dentist removed an embedded wisdom tooth.” 
  • “The CPJ provides data on embedded journalists who are missing or imprisoned.”

Verb forms of embed/imbed

Present tense/future tense: embed(s) or imbed(s)

Past tense/past participle: embedded or imbedded

Present participle: embedding or imbedding

Synonyms

Verb: Bedded, entrenched, fixed, impacted, implanted, ingrained/engrained, infused, inserted, instilled, lodged, placed, planted, rooted, set.

Adjective: firm, fixed, immutable, implanted, inculcated, instilled, set, unchangeable.

Antonyms

Verb: Dislodge, eliminate, eject, eradicate, expel, uproot.

Adjective: brief, ephemeral, fleeting, impermanent, momentary, provisional, temporary, transient.

Etymology of embed

The verb embed derives from the root words em- + bed (noun) where the prefix “em-” means “put in or into, bring to a certain state.” However, the verb did not literally mean ‘to insert into bed for rest.’ 

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “embed” initially described fossils embedded in rock around 1778. The verb developed a figurative sense by 1835 and eventually went on to reference war reporters in 2003. 

How to use embedded vs. imbedded in a sentence?

At the end of the day, embedded and imbedded are different spellings of the same word. Let’s take a look at published examples to understand how professional writers use these spelling variants by topic. 

General usage

“A small grasshopper has been found embedded in a Vincent van Gogh painting at a Kansas City museum.” — AP News

“Visitors will return to the soaring maze of ice imbedded with LED lights that flash every shade of the rainbow under the night sky.” — Colorado Springs Gazette

“Victoria Beckham has had all those Saint Laurentisms embedded into her practice for a while, meaning she practices what she preaches.” — Vogue Runway

Computing

“Disney announced recently that it plans to unveil this spring at Walt Disney World in Orlando a wristband embedded with radio frequency identification chips.” — Los Angeles Times

“Elected officials and activists have become increasingly concerned that bias is embedded in many artificial intelligence technologies.” — The Wall Street Journal

“The NHL announced on Tuesday that pucks that are imbedded with tracking technology will no longer be used.” — CBS Sports

Military reporting

“Overall, the number of embedded reporters at a given time dropped from several hundred in the early going to a few dozen in recent months.” – The New York Times

“U.S. military officials say there is a loophole of sorts, the inevitable consequence perhaps of journalists being embedded with the military.” — Los Angeles Times

“How do you avoid becoming an advocate when imbedded during the reporting on a story?” — The Journalist’s Resource

FAQ: Related to imbedded vs. embedded

What does embedment mean?

The noun embedment is a derivative of embed and describes the state of being embedded in something. But unlike embed vs. imbed, “embedment” is the most common spelling. In fact, most spell check software highlights “imbedment” as a misspelling, and, as of 2021, there is only one instance of this spelling within all published news content online. 

Additional reading

Whether you’re looking to expand your English vocabulary or decipher more confusing words, we’ve got you covered. The Word Counter publishes weekly grammar articles similar to imbedded vs. embedded, such as: 

Test Yourself!

Test how well you understand the difference between imbedded vs. embedded with the following multiple-choice questions. 

  1. True or false?: Imbed and embed have different meanings. 
    a. True
    b. False
  2. True or false?: Imbedment is not an alternative spelling for embedment.
    a. True
    b. False
  3. English writers use imbed or embed as a _____________. 
    a. Adjective
    b. Adverb
    c. Verb
    d. A and C
  4. Whether it’s “imbed vs. embed” or “imbedded vs. embedded,” American English always prefers the use of ___________ and ___________.
    a. Imbed, imbedded
    b. Imbed, embedded
    c. Embed, embedded
    d. Embed, imbedded
  5. Embedded is the _____________ form of the verb embed.
    a. Future participle
    b. Present participle
    c. Past participle
    d. B and C
  6. Present-day use of embedded might reference ___________.
    a. Html
    b. A web page
    c. A journalist
    d. All of the above
  7. Choose the best synonym for the adjective embedded or imbedded
    a. Implant
    b. Instill
    c. Implanted
    d. Unabridged 
  8. Choose the best antonym for the adjective embedded or imbedded.
    a. Ephemeral
    b. Uproot
    c. Dislodged
    d. A or C

Answers

  1. B
  2. A
  3. C
  4. C
  5. C
  6. D
  7. C
  8. A

Sources

  1. Bengel, C. “Why the NHL is halting use of pucks with tracking technology.” CBS Sports, cbssports.com, 20 Jan 2021. 
  2. Boster, S. “Colorado winter fantasy returning, but this time with restrictions.” Colorado Springs Gazette, gazette.com, 17 Nov 2020. 
  3. Embed.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2021. 
  4. Embed.” The Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2021.
  5. “Embed.” The New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 565.
  6. Embedded.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2021.
  7. Harper, D. “Em-.Online Etymology Dictionary, etymonline.com, 2021. 
  8. Grasshopper found in Vincent van Gogh painting at Kansas City museum.” The Associated Press, apnews.com, 7 Nov 2017. 
  9. Harper, D. “Embed (v.).” Online Etymology Dictionary, etymonline.com, 2021. 
  10. King, K. “New York City Bill Aims to Regulate AI Hiring Tools.” The Wall Street Journal, wsj.com, 27 Feb 2020. 
  11. Martin, H. “Disney’s computer-chip bracelets raise concerns, lawmaker says.” Los Angeles Times, latimes.com, 24 Jan 2013.
  12. Mower, S. “Pre-fall 2020: Victoria Beckham.” Vogue Runway, vogue.com, 13 Jan 2020.
  13. Pérez-Peña, R. “Frontline Blogger Covers War in Iraq With a Soldier’s Eyes.” The New York Times, nytimes.com, 21 Jan 2008.
  14. Schmitt, R. B. “U.S. Cracks Down on Journalists’ Taking Souvenirs Out of Iraq.” Los Angeles Times, latimes.com, 24 Apr 2003.
  15. Syllabus: Critical thinking, ethics and knowledge-based practice in visual media.” The Journalist’s Resource, journalistsresource.org, 21 May 2015.